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The beautiful game is heading down to Rio

September 08 2010
The prize to keep your eye on! The prize to keep your eye on!
This year‘s Homeless World Cup will be the biggest yet, and Scotland has hopes...

The seventh Homeless World Cup kicks off in Rio, Brazil, on 19 September.

This year's event is expected to be the biggest yet, with 64 teams from around the globe challenging for the trophy in a purpose-built stadium on Copacabana beach. Scotland's eight-man squad was selected following trials across the country, and the players now hope to follow in the footsteps of the 2007 team who won the World Cup in Denmark.

The players included are: Matthew Brannan, 36, and David Stone, 40, both from Glasgow; Ryan Wilson, 21, of Cambuslang; Ian Glaister, 25, from Alloa; Martin Begley, 26, Greenock; Graham Linklater, 36, Inverness; Liam Forbes, 22; and Barry Ritchie, 19, Dundee.

The Scotland team manager, David Duke, who was previously homeless, said it was a tough task to pick the squad: "It was a really difficult decision because all the players who came to the trials were great, but we think we have got the best team to take to Brazil."

The Homeless World Cup has a great impact on the lives of the players taking part. Figures taken from previous tournaments show that over 70 per cent of the competing players improve their living conditions by coming off drugs and alcohol, moving into jobs, education, homes, training and even going on to become players or coaches for pro or semi-pro football teams.

David Duke, who also runs Street Soccer Scotland, offering football coaching and mentoring sessions around the country, commented: "Football is a opportunity to do something positive and meet new people. The excitement of scoring a goal builds confidence; being part of a team gives a sense of belonging.

"It's vital, it's a way out, an opportunity to get involved in something, to get away from loneliness and isolation." The shining example of how football can give people a chance to change their life is Manchester United's new signing Bebe, who joined for £7.4million in August. The Portuguese striker was homeless as a youngster and grew up in a children's home in Lisbon. He learned how to play football on the streets, and in 2009 he represented Portugal in the European Street Football Festival in Bosnia, where he scored 40 goals in just six games!

Bebe's extraordinary rise to fame gives a whole new meaning to the Homeless World Cup's slogan "A ball can change your life", and hopefully we'll see more players follow his path in the future.